Copies of The Terrific Engine by David Tough. Photo by and courtesy of David Tough on Twitter, @david_tough.

14 years ago, David Tough had an idea he found enticing. Now, with a book published on the topic, he loves the idea more than ever.

Part-time Trent faculty member, former Arthur editor, and senior editor at Electric City Magazine, David Tough has been an active member in the Peterborough/Nogojiwanong community through writing. He recently celebrated the publication of his first book in May 2018. It is an academic history book titled The Terrific Engine. Tough describes the book as being “about the role that the idea of income taxation played, before most people paid income tax, in changing – modernizing – the way people talk about political positions and political parties.”

“Up until the First World War, voters were defined as Liberal and Conservative, but it was unclear what that meant. A lot of people wanted a more democratic party system, one with more options and with clearer differences between the parties,” Tough explains. “They supported the introduction of income taxation for the obvious reason that it would take money from people with high incomes, and potentially use that money to pay for social programs to help the poor and unemployed, but also because it would mean that it was clearer where the parties stood. You could map their differences in terms of how high or low they wanted income taxation to be, on a spectrum left to right.”

The Terrific Engine is an academic book, but Tough says that “if people do read it outside of an academic context, they will probably read it for the story, and take from it three main things: that income taxation made elections a lot more democratic; that it made the economy significantly less exploitative (though it could have gone much further, and still could), and that income taxation exists because people fought for it.”

Although Tough had the idea for his book in 2004, he didn’t start writing it until 2006.

“In terms of actively working on it, there was really only two years of full-time work plus seven years of part-time.”

Together, this might equal about five years of full time writing on the same topic. The amount of time and years he spent writing the book is something he found surprising.

“It’s a long-term commitment,” he says. “Anything you want to write a book about should be something you are very confident you’ll still be fascinated by in ten years time because you’ll be stuck with it and you might be miserable otherwise.”

Tough is hoping that the publication will help him attain a permanent professorship at a university. He is currently working on another book about the politics of anti-poverty in the 1960s.

The introduction to The Terrific Engine is free to read on David Tough’s academia.edu page and the entire book is available for purchase on ubcpress.ca.